America's view of its own elected Congress has declined so dramatically that now, according to one poll, Americans prefer hemorrhoids, fungus, jury duty, dog feces and potholes to congress. Even the IRS and the DMV had higher approval ratings (I am not making this up!). Congress only had an edge on serial-killer Charles Manson, Russia's Vladimir Putin (probably exactly how he likes it!), and we can all be grateful they preferred Congress over Miley Cyrus' "twerking."
I know Congress has a hard job, but shouldn't we at least expect them to poll better than fungus?
Yes, Americans think more highly of witches and zombies than Congress too. We would rather have zombies running our country than this batch of "leaders" who are making $174,000 a year to act like bickering children on the taxpayer's dime. The only difference is that children on the playground aren't playing with trillions of dollars, a military with nuclear weapons, and the economic engine of the entire world.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for our nation and even our nation's leaders, but I am not thankful for how they have been behaving themselves. Like most Americans, I believe that Congress is behaving irresponsibly. The inviolable partisanship and lust for power that glues Washington together is a laughable affront to our reputation as the world's lone superpower, and it is – above all – representative of a moral crisis in leadership that it has brought.
While our politicians were meant to serve the interests of their constituents, these days many of them seem entirely committed to serving their own. They clamor inexhaustibly for media attention and are willing to grab every passing opportunity to stymy progress if that means more of it. They wear their obstinacy like a crown – when they aren't meant to have crowns at all. They are meant to be servants of the people, not servants of their future reelection or future political ambitions. Yet, they continue manipulating the political process to serve their own ends, and the America imagined by our founders is being jeopardized to feed bottomless egos.
While democracy has always been a rough and tumble sport, it has – at its best – been held together by a certain dignity of office, and certain awareness that progress required fighting hard but also compromising well. In previous generations, partisanship knew its limits when it boiled over into fistfights on the Congressional floor. When it did, on at least eight occasions, it was a shock to the governing powers and a warning to them that their ire had gone too far. These days, they haven't the dignity to disagree face-to-face. Members of "the other party" are greeted by a handshake and a smile on the floor before being lambasted publicly on CNN for a half-an-hour, throwing one more stick into the raging inferno of acrimony and obstinacy that is poisoning America.
Power is gathered and guarded at all costs. It is hoarded and abused, and the circus goes on round after round while the nation looks in bewilderment at the child's play running amuck in the seat of global power.
This is not how it was meant to be. Power was meant to be used as a stewardship, not as a right, and it was to be leveraged in the service of others, not in the service of one's self.
After George Washington presided over the Continental Congress, led the country through the Revolutionary War, and united the original thirteen colonies, the country wanted to make him king. He could have accepted their offer. He was, after all, the first and only president to receive one hundred percent of the electoral vote. Yet, he refused to run for a second term and decided to retire, away from politics, and away from the capital.
Because he thought it was best for the country – and he believed in actually doing what was best for the country. It was an honorable thing to do, and I wonder if any of us believe that anyone these days would choose to lay down his or her power in this way?
George Washington in his farewell address warned against the kind of partisanship and power mongering that we're witnessing today. He said chillingly, "It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction…"
While our government isn't threatened by insurrection, our future is threatened by the nonsensical behavior in Washington. We need a revolution of good, sensible leadership that is bound together solely by a commitment to the wellbeing of the nation, that takes power lightly and fearfully, and that believes in doing what's right over what is expected.
Maybe this Thanksgiving, when America's leaders sit around their dinner tables, they will be reminded of what is actually important and what good leadership requires.
That's what I'm praying for this Thanksgiving, for the sake of our nation and for the sake of the world.